Illuminating rural Africa: Increased dissemination of solar energy technologies for rural electrification
19-20 May 2014

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Accelerating universal energy access in Ethiopia and Kenya through the use of decentralized solar energy technologies, to enhance electricity access and develop entrepreneurship in rural communities.
Power to Empower

TERI, with its long experience in the research and dissemination of solar PV technologies, has extended its expertise and services to the African continent for lighting up homes of thousands of people that do not have access to clean light with solar lanterns, under the aegis of its flagship programme 'Lighting a Billion Lives' (LaBL).

With support from DFID India, TERI is implementing an energy access project in two selected countries in Africa - Ethiopia and Kenya. The objective is to identify barriers to promotion of clean energy options in Sub Saharan Africa, share lessons and best practices from the Indian context in the area of policy, regulation, financing, and technology and delivery models and demonstrate the techno-social viability of the decentralized solar energy applications and improved cook-stoves to bring improved quality of life to the rural households in the region.

Power to Empower

It is in this context, that a collaborative workshop on 'Dissemination of Solar Energy Technology for Rural Electrification: Challenges and Opportunities" was held by TERI jointly with the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoAREC) and The African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively.

These workshops focused on the challenges and market availability for solar powered products in their countries and drew participants from the Ministry of Water and Energy, , and county level energy bureaus, as well as the Industry, financial institutions, NGOs, civil society organizations, practitioners and researchers.

Another critical aspect of the workshops conducted was to identify opportunities and challenges affecting diffusion and wider adoption of solar energy technologies for decentralized application and rural electrification and explore potential measures for scaling up the dissemination to enhance electricity access. Other specific objectives were; to identify existing gaps in the solar energy arena for rural electrification, to deliberate on the potential of solar energy to address energy poverty and finally to analyze and evaluate government's plan on solar power and strive towards adoption of low carbon technologies.

Power to Empower

Highlighting the importance of this initiative, State Minister of Energy in Ethiopia, Kebede Gerba, said in the workshop conducted in Ethiopia that "Development of large hydropower is being carried out primarily by undertaking stringent environmental and social impact assessments". Focus is also given to the development of small and micro hydropower as they are suitable and economical in electrifying remote rural areas and for the establishments of agro-processing plants and productive activities in rural Ethiopia.

Dr Ben Muok, Director of Programmes, ACTS chaired the inaugural session of the workshop in Kenya and in his opening remarks envisaged that DFID India is supporting the research activities pertaining to the improved clean technologies as well as their private sector-led business models. He also addressed that, these innovative research activities are found to be very effective in increasing the community awareness, generating demand, in enabling provisions for development of appropriate products and services and thereby in promotion of solar lighting solutions on a much wider scale. Dr Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director of ACTS in his address said that sustainable energy is a fundamental challenge in Sub-Sahara Africa. He stated that we are never going to run out of sun shine, however the challenges is how do we make the solar power affordable and accessible to the poor people.

Power to Empower

Mr Debajit Palit, Associate Director, TERI gave a brief on TERI and its portfolio in Africa. In his address in the workshops, he deliberated on how the TERI-ACTS and TERI-HoAREC initiative, supported by DFID India, is attempting to create access to finance, technology and services through demonstration of techno-social viability of the decentralized solar energy applications and improved biomass cook stoves through innovative business models and financing options. In addition to the demonstration projects, the project is also supporting capacity development of stakeholders through training programmes, workshops and exchange visits for cross learning. He also suggested that attempts should be made to develop solar entrepreneurs in the rural areas to take the product and service closer to the door steps of rural community. This would benefit the nation by allowing rural houses which are far apart from accessing power, creating more jobs for people to maintain the equipment and supply more solar equipment and energy efficient stoves. He hopes that private and public enterprises will join forces to find the best way to utilize the sunshine available in plenty in these countries.

Power to Empower

Governments in both the two countries have well recognized the need of providing electric power to their rural communities. To facilitate this, they have put in place regulations, which enable formation of institutions to administer rural electrification projects through renewable energy. Besides institutions, suppliers and energy service companies are playing a major role in the dissemination, training and development of rural energy. Hence effort in creating conducive atmosphere by of enacting appropriate legislations, financing options and in the coordination of activities of the various actors in the area are carried out and every means of encouragement and sharing of best practices are being made in this direction.

Numerous sessions took place during both the workshops and the dialogue also highlighted case studies, marketing perspectives, innovative methodologies, quality benchmarks and policies in energy sector etc. Parallel to the workshops in Ethiopia, HoAREC also organized a solar exhibition which witnessed many private businesses displaying the solar powered products. A supplier told the workshop that one of the problems facing the solar products sector in Ethiopia was that the government did not have enough awareness and expected to buy state-of-the art products for a cheaper price than they were actually worth and such type of exhibition provide them the opportunities to understand the market and provide better quality of products.